Saturday, April 2, 2011

Sharing the Country

I just spent a lovely week with my dad and step-mom here in New Zealand. Though they are down under for 5 weeks, we were only able to squeeze in one week together. I am, after all, supposed to be working (more on that failure later). Overall, we had a lovely, lovely time!

First, I want to say that my parents must be the weather gods. The weather was basically perfect while they were here. When they arrived in Wellington, it was cold and windy, but we had a nice lunch, wandered along the main part of the city, and then ambled back to their hotel and had dinner nearby. Then the clouds cleared, the sun shone, and the wind even almost disappeared. That is unheard of in Windy Welly. So what did we do?

We explored! First, we went to the top of Mt. Victoria, which overlooks the entire city. It was not even cold up there!

The weather gods and the beautiful view of Wellington from Mt. Vic!

Then we took the cable car up to the top of the Botanic Gardens. If you have been following this blog, you know that I walk through the Botanic Gardens on my way to school each day, so for me, the cable car has been used for commuting sometimes. In other words, am I a tourist or a resident? But the gardens did not disappoint, and we slowly made our way back to the city center and to the famous Backbencher Pub with caricatures of political figures on the wall. 

Then it was back to their hotel to get ready for my dad’s evening presentation on the psychological effects of relocation cases. Laugh if you like, but it was a great presentation, and I met some wonderful people, including a judge with whom I spent about 6 hours on Friday. She let me sit next to her on the bench – that was weird, but awesome, and I learned a ton, just by watching.

Ok, back to vacation! The next morning, I had a breakfast meeting with the Chair of the Family Law Section of the New Zealand Law Society. He was in Wellington from Auckland for a meeting, and he made time to see me. Have I mentioned that people here are absolutely amazing? When he pulled out a notepad and pen to take notes on what I was saying, my entire perspective changed on what I can do here in New Zealand. Apparently, I have something to offer them in addition to all the amazing things I can learn from them. It was a pretty exciting moment.

Then I literally ran to the hotel to meet Ruth, my step-mom, so we could head out to the Kapiti coast to meet up with her friends from back when she lived in Baltimore. My dad was doing another presentation, this one all-day, so Ruth and I were on our own, and we headed to the beach. The Kapiti Coast is known for three things – chocolate, ice cream, and cheese. Let me tell you, it is with good reason. All three were amazing (only one bite of ice cream – I was STUFFED). The friends live in an awesome ecological pre-fab house ten minutes from the beach, and one of them took us down to the beach, where we did some yoga, and then we had an amazing lunch full of veggies from the garden.

Yay tree pose with two people!!

The next day, the weather turned overcast, but no worries – we were headed for museums and Parliament. We started the morning with the Parliament tour, which was strangely different than the one I took during orientation, and then we went and saw two more museums. Okay, they saw two, but I had already exhausted one, so I managed to get some work done for a few minutes before meeting them in Te Papa, the National Museum. I finally took the time to wander around, and it was great. The rain set in just as we walked into the restaurant for dinner, but have no fear, it stopped just before we finished eating, so we were able to walk back to the hotel, and I went home.

The next day, we headed to Dunedin and had a lovely dinner with the amazing woman who has been hosting me down there. I will not write too much about her for privacy reasons, but the link is to her webpage, and suffice it to say, I have never felt so welcome by anyone in my entire life. I feel supremely blessed. The next day I actually attended a class in the morning called “Managing your Thesis” and learned all sorts of things about what it means to write a thesis. Yikes. My parents came into town and we met my future flatmate for lunch before heading to the law school where we ran into my professor.

Then we went on a wildlife tour. Since arriving in New Zealand, I have wanted to go on one of these tours. Dunedin is famous for the royal albatross, fur seals, sea lions, and penguins. It is home to one of the rarest penguins in the world – the yellow-eyed penguin. While we often think of penguins as ice birds, most species actually live in forests, though they spend their days out at sea. We got to see penguins up close, coming in from the water and a little blue penguin in his hole. We also saw a huge colony of fur seals and a bunch of sea lions on the beach. It was amazing.

The cutest fur seal was looking up at us. It was so adorable.

So cute!!

The next day, they wanted to relax at their beach resort, so I went to school, but we met up in time for a little museum action in the afternoon, and then Fulbright had its Welcome Reception for those of us in Dunedin. They planned it for that date knowing I would be in town. Have I mentioned how blessed I am by people in New Zealand? It was great to see some new friends and meet some new people.

The next day we did the other thing I have wanted to do since arriving in Dunedin – the Taieri Gorge Railway. It is a 4-hour rail trip into a gorge, and the weather was perfect, so I spent much of the outbound trip on the back of the train. On the way back our view was a bit blocked, but it was still a great way to spend the morning. Then I went to school while they went to the hotel, and we met up for one last amazing dinner in town.

Sadly, the next morning I walked to their hotel with my bag (they would have picked me up, but I wanted a walk, and the bag was light, and who knew I had been living that close to the beach where there hotel was?), and we drove to the airport. That is where our great adventure ends. I got on a plane, and they headed to Queenstown (where apparently my dad went hang gliding, but I will believe it when I see photos!).

Overall, it was an amazing week, and as blessed as I have been with people here in New Zealand, I feel incredibly lucky to be able to say that I spent a week with my parents and loved it and was sad to have to say goodbye. I guess now I have to get back to work, but that has been hard to do. I know it will come soon.

I am now back in Wellington for about another 1.5 weeks before I head back to Dunedin for the rest of my stay here in New Zealand (except the short trips elsewhere in the country).  But I just have to say – it was a great week and great to share the sites with my parents! They even put up with my being a tour guide. ;)

© 2011 Rebecca Stahl, all rights reserved
This blog is not affiliated with Fulbright or Fulbright New Zealand, and all opinions expressed herein are my own. 

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